Walt Mossberg

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Touch-Screen Laptops, iPhone Apps, and Vista Ultimate

I’m looking to purchase a laptop, and I am quite intrigued with the newer touch-screen models. Do you know when there will be more of these available, especially with larger screens?

A: You will begin to see more touch-screen laptops after Oct. 22, when Windows 7 comes out, because that new operating system has optional fingertip touch-screen navigation built in. In addition, many of the major Windows PC makers are adding their own touch-navigation systems to newer models.

However, I’d offer two caveats. First, not every touch screen will be capable of performing all the multitouch actions and gestures Windows 7 will offer. Some are more limited in their capabilities.

Second, the hardware makers will likely be cautious at first about adding fully capable touch screens to all or most of their laptops.

This is partly because these screens can add significant cost in a price-conscious market, and partly because nobody is certain how popular touch-screen navigation will be on laptops as opposed to, say, on all-in-one desktops where reaching for the screen is more obvious and natural.

I have an Apple iMac, and an Apple iPhone with around 122 apps. My question is, why don’t these iPhone apps work on the iMac? Both units use the same operating system, so why not?

A: While the iPhone and the iMac each use a version of the same operating system, Apple’s OS X, they aren’t the same operating systems. The version on the iPhone is stripped down, and has been modified to support an entirely different user interface, navigation system and set of hardware capabilities.

So there are two separate collections of apps, or programs, that run on the two platforms.

I am currently running Windows Vista Ultimate on my Dell PC. I have regretted it ever since I upgraded from XP because of its terribly slow performance. I have heard good things about Windows 7 but I am afraid I will have to buy the more expensive Ultimate upgrade (which I don’t really need) instead of an upgrade to Home Premium or Professional. Is that true?

A: According to Microsoft, owners of Vista Ultimate can only perform an “in-place upgrade” to Windows 7 Ultimate, not to lesser versions. An “in-place upgrade” is the type most people think of, the type where all your programs and files and settings are preserved just as they were, but you emerge with the new operating system.

Even then, you must be careful to buy the edition of Ultimate that matches the type of architecture your machine possesses, either 32-bit or 64-bit.

However, you can downgrade to the Home Premium or Professional versions of Windows 7, if you are willing to do a lot more work, by opting for what Microsoft calls a “custom installation,” something commonly known as a “clean install.” This typically means, first, backing up all your files and settings to an external hard disk, then allowing the Windows 7 installation disk to wipe your hard disk clean before installing your preferred version of Windows 7.

You would then copy back all your files. But you cannot do the same with your programs. For these, you would have to reinstall every one, from their original disks or downloaded installation files, and then download and re-install all the patches and program upgrades that have been issued by their makers since you acquired them.

You can find Mossberg’s Mailbox, and my other columns, online for free at the All Things Digital Web site,


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